Millennial lawyers are getting sick of their jobs even faster than previous generations

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By Alex Aldridge on

32% of UK lawyer job seekers are applying for non-legal roles — up from 24% in 2007, finds study


The mismatch between student perceptions of being a lawyer and the sometimes tough reality has been highlighted in a survey that shows members of the legal profession heading for the exit door in rising numbers.

According to analysis of job searches by 1,486 lawyer applicants on job sites Reed and Total Jobs, 32% of lawyers who earn over £50,000 are applying for non-legal roles that would see them leave the profession. The sample was restricted to lawyers in the newly qualified to 10 years post-qualification bracket.

A similar survey conducted jointly in 2007 by YouGov and The Lawyer found that 24% of lawyers would like a change of career.

The new study, conducted by career change consultants Life Productions, found that the disillusioned lawyers were applying in greatest numbers to other City roles in banking, insurance and finance (13%), followed by IT and internet business roles (7%) and jobs in the construction industry (6%).

Life Productions‘ founder, Martin Underwood — a former junior criminal barrister who now advises unhappy corporate law associates how to escape their jobs — billed the results as emblematic of a “talent retention crisis for Big Law [that] is getting even worse as the industry deals with millennials, a generation of professionals who demand work-life balance and a job that is aligned to their values.”

Underwood, who used to practise from London set 9 Bedford Row, went on:

Working conditions for lawyers at larger firms haven’t changed significantly in eight years. A large proportion of well-paid associates and senior associates continue to resent the lifestyle they are expected to adopt. For them, the high salary is simply not enough to justify the grinding hours, the stress and the lack of control over the volume and nature of work.

The study comes as a host of City law firms move to increase junior solicitor pay and implement flexible working initiatives — developments which suggest the recovering economy is boosting associates’ employment options and bargaining power.